Posts Tagged ‘family’

Non-biological father jailed for child support

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Feminism has been pretty successful when it comes to implementing new laws that look out for women’s rights. Examples in the US include rape shield laws and the Violence Against Women Act, both of which can be questioned regarding their gender neutrality and gender fairness – even though the intention behind these laws were noble.

However, when it comes to men and men’s rights, the legal system still lags far behind. I’ve previously written about my proposal to DNA test all newborns, and to do away with the old fashioned laws that presume the husband of a woman to be the father, or that expect a man to accept fatherhood simply by trusting the woman.

Unfortunately, the legal system in the US (or elsewhere for that matter) still has to catch up on men’s rights and what’s best for the child, so we are still stuck with laws that determine paternity not through proper biological testing, but through probability. This means that some men raise children, or pay child support, even though it’s not their child to begin with.

Fortunately, there are commercial DNA tests available, which means that any man can test his child to see whether it truly is his child or not. You’d think that a DNA test that conclusively proves that you are not the father would be enough to release you from any paternal obligations, including child support, but apparently this is not the case in some US states.

Have a look at this article, that I just came across:

A South Georgia man who had been jailed for more than a year for not paying child support — even though he was not the biological father — was released from custody on Wednesday.

Come again? A man was jailed for not paying child support for a child that isn’t his?? There’s something rotten in the state of Georgia…

The judge, however, postponed deciding whether Hatley must still repay the more than $10,000 in child support the state says he owes.

In a sane world that decision would be a no-brainer. Either you find the real father and make him pay, or else you let the untrustworthy mother pay for her decision to make an innocent man pay her large sums of money.

Two DNA tests — one conducted nine years ago and another earlier this month — proved that Hatley was not the father of Travon Morrison, who is now 21. Even after learning he was not the father, Hatley paid thousands of dollars the state said he owed for support. After losing his job and becoming homeless, he still made payments out of his unemployment benefits.

This man is nothing short of a hero. In a society that couldn’t care less about his rights, he pays child support even when he’s unemployed, for a child that isn’t his to begin with!

Urgent legislative reforms are needed to prevent that this kind of scenario arise in the future. The most swift and fair solution is already out there: DNA test all newborns, to secure two adults who are responsible for the emotional and financial well-being of the child.

Children and Gender – Part 2

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

In my last post I argued against raising children in a way which is incongruent with the rest of society. Children aren’t responsible for challenging or developing the current gender roles, parents are. Rather than trying to quell the natural instincts of children, I believe in the importance of identifying and working with the areas in life that are gender neutral.

Children tend to organize themselves into same-sex peer groups. Boy and girls usually prefer very different styles of playing, with girls opting for role playing and emotional sharing, while boys do activities together that don’t require as much emotional intimacy – at least not through talking.

Restricting children’s styles of playing is not something I believe in. Children need to be allowed to explore their environment in the way that they are hardwired to do. By hardwired I don’t mean that all girls and all boys are the same, I simply mean the way that each individual child is hardwired.

Trying to force children to play in a certain way is not a good idea as far as I’m concerned. A child’s creativity is developed through play, and continuously interrupting and stifling this creativity can hardly be good for the child’s development and self-esteem.

Obviously parents need to control certain behaviors such as bullying or fighting, but actually dictating what your child does when playing is akin to implementing communism or fascism in your child’s universe. Playtime is the first area where a child explores his or her autonomy, and the very act of interfering with that process decreases said autonomy.

On the other hand, children need to be socialized into responsible citizens, if we’re interested in maintaining a civilized society. This means that parents need to claim part of their children’s time, in order to raise them responsibly and help them become well-adapted adults.

In other words, the flip side of parents letting children play the way they want in order for them to explore their creativity, is that parents and adults need to be proactive in teaching children how the world works and what is expected of them.

Some of the gender neutral areas that parents can and should affect, regardless of whether it’s a boy or a girl who’s being raised, are the following:

  • Education. The importance of studying and doing well in school needs to be equally emphasized for both sexes.
  • Chores. I think that boys and girls alike can benefit from learning about cooking, woodwork, car maintenance, baking, etc. Unless you’re exposed to all kinds of chores, there is no way to find out what is interesting to you. Only teaching boys traditional male chores, and girls traditional female chores, is limiting in my opinion.
  • Work ethic. If you work, you get paid. If you do not work, you do not get paid. Children who aren’t taught about the relationship between performance and rewards usually have a hard time adjusting to adulthood.
  • Moral code. In postmodern circles it’s not uncommon to claim that all morality is relative (which is interesting, since “all morality” constitutes an absolute claim). I don’t believe that to be true at all, even though there certainly is a subjective component to morality. The common mantra of “you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else”, is eventually nothing but a moral cop-out. Kids are constantly looking for structure and meaning in their world, and removing all structure and meaning will not help their development. Parents need to dare to speak out about their own views on legal matters, friendship, sexuality, etc.

So… not everything’s about gender. Children are perfectly capable of managing their own gender specific behavior when playing and hanging out with their friends, and the role of parents and adults is more than anything to socialize kids into educated and morally responsible adults who can contribute meaningfully to society. The tendency to let these gender neutral areas slide is a dangerous one, and intuitively I feel that there could be a connection here to boys’ deteriorating performance in school.

Children and Gender – Part One

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Raising children is no easy task, and it just got even more complicated.

In traditional societies there never was much controversy around gender. Boys were boys, girls were girls, and the gendered behaviors that children displayed were both expected and accepted. The downside was that any boy or girl who behaved in an atypical way was likely told by his or her parents to change and be more gender typical, while also being ostracized by other kids (which is still the case – children can be cruel).

Post-traditional Approaches

In postmodern circumstances that are heavily influenced by feminism, gender is often believed to be mostly or fully a product of social and cultural programming. This can lead to theories (and in some places actual practices) on how it would be desirable to raise kids differently, and try to eradicate the social constructs that create femininity and masculinity.

Using kids as guinea pigs in a gender experiment might be tempting for those who strongly believe that gender is a social construct, however, I believe that it is deeply unethical. If a subset of adults believe that gender roles are 100 percent socially constructed, and that this is a problem, then their task is to try to change the adult population, not the children.

If the core belief is that girls and boys become the way they are by modeling adults, then the adults are the ones who are responsible for implementing change, not the kids. Raising kids in a way that is incongruent with the societal expectations that they will meet as a adults, can hardly be something that is conducive for happiness and good mental health.

Besides, what moral authority will you have if you are incapable of doing something yourself, while expecting your child to do it? If you yourself are a thief, then you are modeling criminality for your child, regardless of what you tell them about stealing.

Children and Play

The preferred way to surgically engineer change in children’s gendered behavior seems to be controlling what toys they can play with. This approach can be used by parents, or gender “experts” in preschool.

I’m not talking about parents giving their kids a wide range of toys to choose from, which I think is great, but parents or teachers actively enforcing certain styles of playing. Ways of doing this include breaking up same-sex peer groups and only allowing mixed groups, or forcing children to play with toys that are usually preferred by the opposite sex.

A Sane Way Forward

Actively breaking up same-sex peer groups doesn’t make any sense, since children spontaneously organize themselves into these groups. Claiming that children model their parents or other adults in this area might seem like a tempting explanation, but when you actually think about it adults are not nearly as rigid as children. Most parents hang out with a partner of the opposite sex, and when parents have a party or get-together there’s usually a mixture of men and women.

For those of us who believe that gender roles are neither the fixed entities described by traditional societies, nor the 100 percent fluid entities postulated by postmodern feminism, the rules of engagement remain the same: if we want our children to be freer in their gender roles, then we need to model that kind of behavior in ourselves first, before they can follow suit.

Children are not guinea pigs, they’re an integrated and vulnerable part of society.

Is There Anything Good About Fathers?

Friday, April 17th, 2009

It’s not easy being a father nowadays, as you can tell from the question in the heading.

Canadian researchers and authors Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young have written about the persistant anti-male bias in the media, in their two books Spreading Misandry and Legalizing Misandry (you can read a short summary of their work on Wikipedia).

Fathers are an important subgroup of men that are under attack in the media. Directly or indirectly, they are portrayed as:

  • Wife beaters
  • Child abusers
  • Child molesters

Furthermore, we hear a lot about deadbeat dads in the media (i.e. dads who are avoiding paying child support), but hardly anything about all the men who desperately want to see their children but who have been denied any kind of custody.

Something we almost never hear about are the specific benefits that fathers can bring to their children, even though fathers keep young men away from crimes and a range of other psychosocial problems.

Can this really be true, that fathers have a vital protective effect on their children that their mother cannot replace on her own?

The Facts

In the book The Case for Marriage, the authors review the available evidence about single parent households (i.e. fatherless families) and conclude that these children are more likely:

  • To be poor
  • To have health problems
  • To have psychological disorders
  • To commit crimes
  • To exhibit conduct disorders (other than crime)
  • To have poorer relationships with their family and peers
  • To get fewer years of education

This list holds true even when controlling for parents’ race, income and socioeconomic status.

Other research (Harper and McLanahan, 1998) has shown that boys living without their biological fathers are twice as likely to have spent time in jail. These results also hold up after controlling for race, income and parents’ education. Having a stepfather, however, does not decrease incarceration rates – the protective effect comes from a biological dad alone.

In his book Fatherless America, sociologist David Blankenhorn states that:

“Despite the difficulty of proving causation in social sciences, the wealth of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men.”

Swedish studies (Weitoft, Hjern, et al, 2002) have found that children of single parents are twice as likely to develop a psychiatric disease, to attempt suicide or to have an alcohol-related disease.

Conclusion

The status of fatherhood needs to be upgraded immediately. The available research clearly demonstrates that growing up without your father puts a child at a real disadvantage in a host of ways. Courts who are nowadays awarding sole custody to the mother “in the best interest” of the child, aren’t doing their job in a satisfactory way.

Shared custody needs to become default ruling in all custody cases that go to court, unless one parent is obviously unfit to raise a child (eg. drug addicts, convicted sex criminals, proven abusers, etc).

Furthermore, parents need to start cooperating after a divorce, instead of using the children as “collateral”. Children are not a way to extort more money from your spouse after a divorce, nor are they a tool to feel good about yourself.

All parents owe it to themselves and to their children to live close to each other after a divorce, so that shared custody can be practically implemented and so that the children can stay close to both parents.

Monogamy

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Monogamy is often given a bad rap these days. According to many feminists, monogamy is a way of controlling women and enforcing patriarchy, and rebelling against this social convention is an integral part of women’s liberation.

Before accepting this worldview, it’s important to examine why monogamy was introduced in the first place, because it certainly hasn’t been around since the dawn of humanity.

As we all know, virtually all modern societies only permit monogamous marriages. However, most cultures that now consider polygamy to be illegal, at some point allowed men to have more than one wife. As long as a culture was governed by an emperor or tribal laws, chances are that polygamy was allowed, especially for men who had the resources to provide for more than one woman.

The interesting thing to note, is that there is a clear correlation between the formation of traditional (conventional) societies, and the abandonment of polygamy. As it turns out, a region or country was simply much easier to organize if monogamy was the norm.

Monogamy decreases violence and civil wars, since almost all men get a wife. Polygamy leaves a lot of men unmarried, and groups of unmarried men have always been a source of civil unrest. In polygamous cultures, wealthy men are the ones who get several wifes, while poor, low status men go without. The only way for these unmarried, poor men to raise their status and get access to one or more women may be to start raiding or robbing, and constantly dealing with those kinds of troubles is not the way to have law and order prevail.

Furthermore, in addition to motivating men to stay law-abiding, monogamy was and is a way for the state to make sure that all children have two parents (and therefore likely to be supported and survive without any help from the state). Lots of children surviving and thriving was tremendously important to the evolution of any culture at this point in time, since population growth was a key factor for progress before the advent of industrialization.

Monogamy was thus a key building block in the creation of a functioning traditional society, that had moved beyond chaos and lawlessness. For all its faults and shortcomings, the traditional way of life represented a huge step forward in human civilization, and monogamy can therefore be said to represent real progress at that point in time.

What’s interesting is that homosexuality likely became taboo in traditional societies and traditional religions since it was perceived as a threat to the (unconscious) model that prescribed heterosexual monogamy and “child production” as the cornerstone of society. This is obviously not the only reason that homosexuality has been discriminated against, but it is one interesting factor that is not often discussed.

What Did Monogamy Mean For Each Sex?

I started out this post by saying that feminists are often critical of monogamy, and view it as a patriarchal construct that benefits men at the expense of women. However, given the historical facts just outlined, we can see that monogamy meant that:

  • Men had to support their wife and family
  • Each child was assigned a father (whether biological or not)
  • Men were expected to give their lives protecting their wife and children
  • Each man had a very good chance to become married and have children
  • Women’s sexuality was controlled, so that the biological father be known with some certainty
  • Women could be sure of being supported and having the children be supported, since divorces were illegal

Many of these implications of monogamy are still true, and therefore it is clearly unfair and incorrect to state that monogamy only benefited men. Women, children and men alike benefited from monogamy – even though it certainly wasn’t a perfect model by any measure, since the static male and female gender roles were still around.


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